My Bold Predictions Check In
By Chris O’Connor
May 18, 2022
Before the season, I made a list of 5 bold predictions. Some of these were more bold than others and some are clearly looking better than others. Let's take a look.
1. Prediction: Giancarlo Stanton will hit 50 home runs.
Outlook: This may not seem so bold, but Stanton has hit over 38 home runs just once. Big G has 10 home runs through 33 games played. That puts him on pace for 46 home runs in 153 games played. He is hitting the ball as hard as ever: he ranks first in the league in average exit velocity (97.3 mph) and fourth in hard hit rate (55.4%). He has not elevated the ball more than in years past, but one reason for optimism in reaching 50 homers is that he is far more aggressive at the plate. His swing rate is 48.2%; it has not been above 45% since 2016, and this is a big reason that he is walking at a career-low 6.4% rate. That might not be great for his OBP, but swinging more should lead to more opportunities for the long ball.
2. Prediction: Gleyber Torres will bat .300.
Outlook: As a whole, Gleyber is hitting just .243 through 32 games. There are, however, reasons for optimism. After a brutal 11-game start that concluded on April 20th, he was hitting just .143. Since then, Torres has hit .294 with a 151 WRC+ in 21 games. On the season, he has a strikeout rate of 15.8% that is easily a career low and a mark that ranks in the 81st percentile league wide. He is also hitting the ball harder than ever: his average exit velocity and hard hit rate are currently in the 90th and 89th percentile league-wide; those numbers have never been above 50th and 45th percentile in his career. That is a major improvement for Torres, and a big reason that his expected batting average has actually been .317. If he can continue this performance while just getting a little less unlucky, his outcomes should dramatically improve moving forward.
3. Prediction: Yankees will make a trade deadline deal for Michael A. Taylor or Victor Robles.
Outlook: This one is difficult to gauge because we are still early in the season, but it is not looking good right now. The Yankees have stayed (*knock on wood*) very healthy in the outfield and a foursome of Judge, Stanton, Gallo, and Hicks is solid. The Yankees could certainly still upgrade defensively in center field. The stats and my personal eye test say that Aaron Hicks is no longer a plus defender there. A below average defender who bats .225 is just not a particularly valuable player, even at a premium position. If everyone stays healthy, however, I do not see the Yankees making a trade for Taylor or Robles. Hicks still walks a ton and a .355 OBP is more than good enough for a 9-hole hitter. He is also signed through 2025. Aaron Judge has started 11 games in center, and I wonder if he starts there more in the playoffs anyway. At the moment, I think the Yankees ride it out with this foursome, but injuries could always change that.
5. Prediction: Yankees catchers will perform, on the whole, as a top-5 unit by fWAR.
Outlook: Yankees catcher currently ranks tied for 16th with 0.3 fWAR. As anyone who has watched the team could guess, this is driven by a pretty stark offense/defense split. Yankees catchers rank tied for 27th in the league with a 41 WRC+ but first in both Statcast’s framing metric and Fanhgraphs defense score. As I wrote before the season, it was always clear that the Yankees would have top-tier defense at the catcher position, particularly in framing. Offensively was always a different story, but I still see upside with this group. On the whole, Yankees catchers rank sixth in the league among catching units in average exit velocity and third in hard hit rate. They do not strike out, either: they have the third-lowest strikeout rate among team-wide catcher output. By himself, Kyle Higaskioka has the third largest gap in the sport between his wOBA (.307) and xwOBA (.435). With how good the defense is, even just league-average offense from the catcher position would be enough to shoot the position up the fWAR leaderboard. A top 5 finish looks unlikely, but a top 10 finish could be attainable, given how unlucky they have been so far.
6. Prediction: The Yankees finish as an above-average base running team in 2022, per Fangraphs all-encompassing baserunning metric.
Outlook: This one looks good so far. The Yankees currently rank 13th in baserunning score after ranking 29th in 2021. I may do a more in-depth piece on this in the future, like I did last year, but right now the Yankees are eighth in the league with 21 stolen bases after ranking 19th last year. Among the notable improvements: Giancarlo Stanton ranked dead last in the league last season with a -7.0 score, and he is around league average with a 0.1 score this season. A full season of Joey Gallo, a solid baserunner, also helps. Getting rid of dead weight was another plus: Gio Urshela ranked fifth-worst in all of baseball last season in the metric, and Gary Sanchez was 33rd-worst despite playing in just 117 games. The team looks not only more dynamic and athletic this season, but their baserunning IQ has certainly improved as well. That will serve them well when games get tight in October.